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Ralph William Kavanagh ’50

Ralph William Kavanagh ’50, August 16, 2010, in Pasadena, California. Ralph served in the U.S. Navy before coming to Reed and earning a BA in physics. He did advanced studies at the University of Oregon, and received a PhD from Caltech in 1956. His career at Caltech began as a research fellow and led to his becoming full professor in 1970. Ralph was an expert in nuclear physics, primarily focusing on nuclear energy generation within the sun. As a member of Caltech's Kellogg Radiation Laboratory, he performed experiments looking at the fundamental interactions of light nuclei and tested some of the first models of evolving stars, which were based on his measurements of the nuclear reactions that take place in the core of the sun. Ralph was a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science; he was also a classical pianist, outdoorsman, sailor, and Ping-Pong player who could solve a crossword puzzle in his head. Ralph was married to Joyce Eberhart Kavanagh ’50; they had four daughters and a son; eight grandchildren; and one great-grandson. Among his many fine attributes, Ralph is remembered for his sharp wit and wry sense of humor, and for his compassion toward others.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2010

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